Introduction to Accessibility
What is Accessibility and why is it important?
4 min read
When people talk about web or mobile Accessibility, they talk about making those apps usable for people with disabilities.
Some people also refer to Accessibility as a11y because the word Accessibility starts with a, ends with y and between both those letters are eleven characters.
Quote by W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI):
When websites and web tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them. However, currently, many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use. Making the web accessible benefits individuals, businesses, and society.
As the quote says, if we properly design and code our sites, people with disabilities can also use them easily and productively. I love how in the end it states how an accessible web benefits everyone, which I will cover later in this article.
Web Accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the web.
People with disabilities should be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. They can contribute for example by uploading their own media, adding comments, editing texts, etc. What others can do, they should also be able to do.
WHO has identified over 1 billion disabled people, 20% of whom live with great functional difficulties in their day-to-day lives.
A few outstanding figures of disability around the world (according to the WHO’s 2011 report):
253 million people are affected by some form of blindness and visual impairment.
466 million people have disabling deafness and hearing loss.
About 200 million people have an intellectual disability (IQ below 75).
75 million people need a wheelchair on a daily basis.
Type of Disabilities
Some disabilities a person may have:
Deaf or hard of hearing
Acquired brain injury
Autism spectrum disorder
Ways people use the web
Some people navigate the web using only the keyboard, so we have to keep in mind if everything is operable via the keyboard and if we can enhance the experience for users using the keyboard when things may be frustrating to do through the keyboard.
Some use really great assistive technologies like a head wand, for that you can think of a user having a keyboard and accessing it with a wand on their head.
Similar to the head wand but via the mouth.
At its core, a switch is simply a way for a user to activate a control. This can be done in multiple ways, and different users prefer different switches.
Screen readers can be a completely nonvisual way of interacting with the web. It is software that runs on your device, whether PC, Laptop, IPad, Phone, etc. that will read out in audio format the content you are accessing.
In some situations, for a mobile app or website to be accessible, is mandatory. In many countries, it is a must for public sector websites and mobile apps to be accessible, these include sites and apps of:
Central government and local government organizations
Some charities and other non-government organizations
To see some of the laws and policies of different countries, see Web Accessibility Laws & Policies.
Let's take a look at some of the benefits of having an accessible website or mobile app:
Reaching a wider audience (accessible meaning more people can use your website or mobile app)
Improved SEO (By having proper semantic HTML encoded)
Increasing usability (in most cases when we focus on making our website or mobile app accessible, it also becomes more usable for everyone)
Reputation (your company's branding can be improved, by being a company that cares that their software can be used by people with disabilities as well)
Avoid lawsuits and complaints (most countries have laws protecting disabled people)
Reasons to learn
Reasons why developers should learn accessibility:
We're the ones making it inaccessible
Reach a larger audience
Makes you a specialist (most developers know very little about accessibility)
My Top 5 Resources
I wrote a thread on Twitter on my Top 5 Resources that I found most useful during the three months I spent digging deeper into accessibility, I strongly advise going through all of the resources, they are phenomenal and should be enough to give you solid foundational knowledge about accessibility.
Personally, when I started working as a developer, I didn't even know what accessibility was at all, I truly wish I was introduced to it much earlier.
I hope you found this article useful.
Let's strive to make our websites and mobile apps accessible, and in life, in general, make the world a better place.
Be kind, humble, honest, open-minded and generous.